In mid January of this year when Tropical Cyclone Whatshername graciously delivered rains down here in the winter rain areas of the south, White Gum Valley experienced a strange nocturnal phenomenon.
At 8pm on the second day after the rains the lowest part of the Valley was filled with a blanket of sound; thousands of short sharp croaks weaving together as if burglar alarms in every house had developed croaking colds and had been set off all together. The sound was persistent and pervasive and quite disconcerting.
Thinking the chorus came from burrowing frogs, Ken and I were quite excited and we spent some time in the dark ferreting around under shrubs along the verges of Hope Street. Nary a frog was to be seen but Ken’s sharp eyes caught sight of a long brown insect scurrying away into a storm water drain.
This was in fact one of our singers. A mole cricket.
These large burrowing crickets have apparently become more numerous in recent years in the Perth area. There are three species involved and none of them was found in WA before the 1990s. As they are not recorded from natural bushland, it is possible they were introduced from elsewhere - perhaps in compost. Thought to be related to ordinary crickets the mole cricket looks however more like a sandgrouper and has rakes on fore and aft legs for digging its tunnels. Only some mole cricket species are garden pests in that they eat roots and seedlings, others are omnivores like the true crickets.
Google has this to say about their calls -
‘Singing characteristically commences at dusk, often after rain, and ceases within a few hours. The songs of mole crickets are deeper than those of typical crickets and many people have attributed them to frogs.’
In early March a young magpie walked up to me in the SHAC carpark. She waggled her wings and begged for food. A street urchin here in White Gum Valley. I told her to wait while I went upstairs to get some food. I came down with a bit of raw mince and she took it from my hand. She had been fed by humans before obviously.
I noticed that she could fly and presuming she would join her family, I turned around and returned to our apartment. Half an hour later there was a magpie call from our front door and there she was, waggling her wings. I gave her some more mince and a bowl of water. She drank easily from the bowl.
Half the co-op were now interested in Maggie – the cats too. But she knew how to deal with cats and flying over their heads, she dive-bombed them and hurled verbal abuse.
At this stage Maggie’s family realised where she was and we were devastated when four big magpies fronted up and attacked her. She screeched and flew, they followed. This was to continue for a week. Maggie found which balcony belonged to me and waited there for a feed several times a day. Jo, a young girl in our community, helped me to feed her and to remove a long piece of sewing thread that became tangled in both her legs when she tried to play with it.
At least twice a day the big maggies would attack and she would fly for her life. Sometimes hiding in the building site opposite us.
At last I realised we were not winning the battle; one of the big males caught her on our balcony and was viciously pecking her. Ken chased him away, but we knew that our little urchin obviously had some disease that made her unsuitable to live with her family. We took her to Native Ark and they diagnosed Throat Worm parasite and kept her for two weeks until she was well.
The rescue centre said they would return her to her home ground when she had recovered and that the adults would then accept her. We are still hoping she will visit us again. If you live in Hope St and a young female magpie comes to your door asking for food – it might well be our Maggie!
One of the joys of living in WGV is Booyeembarra Park with its wattle and Eucalypt thickets and bush clumps, stream and ponds. It has varied habitats for a number of native birds and Ken and I are avid bird watchers.
Just before sunset when the late light plays on the paperbark trees around the pond and reedbeds we have listened with delight to the evensong of our local nightingale – the Australian Reed-Warbler.This shy little bird has a territorial song almost as musical and as varied (although perhaps a bit more jazzy!) as that of the famous European Nightingale, and like the Nightingale it sings well into the night.
Acrocephalusaustralis isa small and somewhat nondescript bird(some twitchers may call it an LBB, or Little Brown Bastard) until it opens its mouth and pours for this unforgettable melody. New Zealand Birds Online describes its song as ‘a varied outpouring of guttural and liquid notes with some phrases repeated – a little like an improvising Jazz musician.’Another species of Reed-Warbler in the Mariana Islands in the Pacific has actually been named Nightingale Reed-warbler.
Our reed-warbler migrates to the south west of WA from northern regions during September and breeds in reed beds before returning north again in February or March. Only the male sings during the breeding season, often both day and night.
Access Housing has officially opened SHAC Western Australia’s first affordable housing development to feature an embedded solar energy network.
SHAC Founder Michelle Hovane, WA's Housing Minister Hon. Peter Tinley AM MLA and SHAC's youngest residence Matteo cut the ribbon to officially open the development.
Coda Studio, Urbis, Landcorp, Josh Byrne and Associates have won the Australia Award for 'Urban Design, Policies, Programs and Concepts - Small Scale' for the WGV at White Gum Valley (SHACs location)
Congratulations Sensorium Theatre for their NSW and Victorian Tour - including playing in the Sydney Opera House. Sensorium Theatre is Australia’s only company making live shows specifically designed for young audiences with disabilities.
SHAC Member, Fiona Gavino, Wins the Eco Award in Mandurah's Inaugural Drift Installation Art Award, 2015.